It is win, or don’t play anymore. The drama of the playoffs has arrived. Don’t get caught in the crossfire, check out who will help you survive this week and advance in this week’s Studs, Duds and Sleepers.
Stud: Phillip Rivers – I could simply leave the explanation to the fact that he is playing the Cincinnati Bengals, a defense that is the worst in every statistical category (except passing yards per game, their 31st), but let’s look at another fact. He has thrown multiple touchdowns in every single game he’s played, this year. What? Yup, you heard me. Not one time has he thrown less than two scores. Now, he takes on an injury-ridden, beaten down unit that hadn’t forced a first half punt for a month until last Sunday against the Broncos. The Chargers offense laps the Broncos, and will scorch the Bengals, thanks to Rivers.
Dud: Jameis Winston – There are lots who are high on Winston, but I am not, because of this matchup. Just as Rivers will benefit from facing a hapless defense, Winston takes on the Saints who haven’t allowed a top-10 fantasy QB in a month. Dak Prescott (14.2 points) fared better than Carson Wentz (0.8 pts) but neither one did their fantasy owners any favors. The one thing that could give me pause on Winston is garbage time points, because the Saints are going to be up early and often on the Buccaneers, but even then, I believe this next guy is a better option.
Sleeper: Josh Allen – The rookie has found his niche. Allen has finished as QB2 and QB5 in the last two weeks, and it’s all thanks to his legs. He’s got 22 carries for 234 yards and a TD, in that frame of time, and now he faces a Jets defense that gave up 17 fantasy points to Matt Barkley! The same Matt Barkley that was filling in for Allen when he was hurt. If he’s on your waiver wire, nab him and start him, if you need a different QB then, say, Wentz.
Stud: Austin Ekler – I promise, I’m not just doing this to pick on the Bengals…but man, that defense provides some low-hanging fruit. Running backs are killing the Bengals and I would have thought to put Ekler here even if Gordon plays (which seems highly unlikely). The Chargers will be up, early, and will look to own the clock. That’s where Ekler comes in. Just for a minute suppose the Bengals offense surprises and scores a few TDs. Ekler, then, who is well-versed in the passing game, will garner a good share of the targets. PPR, non-PPR, he’s going to get a heaping of fantasy points this week.
Dud: Spencer Ware – In both standard and PPR scoring, just pump the brakes on Ware. He will not immediately present himself a carbon copy of Kareem Hunt. Ware is bigger and not as active in the passing game. In fact, I think Andy Reid will use Ware as more of a decoy from the passing game, than as a viable rushing attack. The Chiefs will lean on Patrick Mahomes to move the ball and Ware will be a nice little sidepiece, but he will not be the player who gets you through this week. If you’re using him as a flex, cool. If you’re counting on Ware to deliver as your RB2, or worse yet, your main RB. Chances are you will not go far.
Sleeper: Gus Edwards (non-PPR) – I wasn’t sold on Edwards last week, but I like him this week. Lamar Jackson will once again get the nod and the Ravens are hot on the heels of the Steelers for the AFC North division, to say nothing about the wildcard spot. They will lean heavily on a rushing attack to keep the Chiefs from boxing in Jackson. Kansas City is nothing special on defense, but the Ravens will need Gus Edwards to play a big role, in this one, as they attempt to keep away from Mahomes.
Tarik Cohen (PPR) – Really, he could be an all-around sleeper, but Cohen will be a feature in the Bears attempt to take down the Rams. Signs are pointing to the return of Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy will have Cohen busy in both the rushing and passing, but especially the passing, sides of the offense. Cohen had 14 targets, last week, and will figure to get a good helping of passes his way, again.
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Stud: Brandin Cooks – You may be surprised to learn that the Chicago Bears have allowed an average of 40.2 points per game to opposing wideouts over the last four weeks. In his last four games, Brandin Cooks has seen an average of nine targets-per. He has three 100-yard games in that span and averaged 19.8 points per contest.
Dud: Davante Adams – Aaron Rodgers has checked out of 2018. Also, if you can believe it, only one team has allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing wideouts, in the last month, than the Atlanta Falcons. This is not as great a matchup for Adams as his fantasy owners are expecting and I say, despite his recent success, he will disappoint.
Sleeper: Tyler Lockett (non-PPR) – Lockett has seen a total of 17 targets over the last month, but he has failed to catch only one of them. He has snagged three TDs, in that span, and scored no less than 12.2 fantasy points. If not for the lack of real volume, he could be a stud.
Bruce Ellington (PPR) – In his three weeks since replacing Golden Tate, Ellington has seen 26 targets and no fewer than six receptions in a game. He’s averaging 10 fantasy points a game and is available in 90% of ESPN leagues (for example) if you are looking to replace guys like Emmanuel Sanders. Bruce Ellington might be that flex play that gets you over the hump.
Stud: Vance McDonald – Oakland is giving up just a shade over 20 points a game to tight ends, in the last month. Vance McDonald is being targeted by the league-leader in passing yards at a rate of just over five a game, in that same time frame. He has gone two weeks in a row without a TD, but that will change this week as the Steelers need a “get right” win to keep pace in the AFC North division race.
Dud: Jared Cook – He’s been a solid fantasy tight end this season, coming in at TE5 for the year. That will not be the case this week. Pittsburgh knows he is the consistent pass catching threat for John Gruden, so they will key in on him and force anyone else to catch a pass. Along with that concentration comes success, too, as the Steelers have allowed just seven fantasy points-per to opposing tight ends.
Sleeper: Ian Thomas (Both) – With Greg Olsen on IR, someone had to fill the void at TE. Enter Ian Thomas. He’s not going to see the workload that his counterpart got, but he did manage 9.6 fantasy points on five targets. I’d wager that he is on your waiver wire, right now, and with injuries and underperforming stars (ahem, Evan Engram), Ian Thomas is a good name to look out for.
Stud: Buffalo Bills – Sam Darnold is back and ready to play for the New York Jets. Good news for anyone who owns the Bills defense. The rook has tossed 14 interceptions, this season, and has played just two games without throwing a pick. Even when he took care of the rock, in those games, Darnold only tossed 150-160 yards and one TD, apiece. Buffalo will be able to keep New York one dimensional and force Darnold to make a play. Something he hasn’t been able to do in his first season.
Dud: Chicago Bears – Daaaa Bears…have a really tough matchup. I know they’ve scored the most points of any defense this year, but they have played the Rams zero times. Well, here comes the one time. There are plenty of defenses which are available that you can play who will get you more points that Chicago will, in week 14.
Sleeper: New Orleans Saints – New Orleans will be able to turnover James Winston and will hold Tampa Bay under 30 points. They remember week one, their worst performance of the year, and will ride strong performances from their healthy defensive backfield to victory. Look for multiple forced turnovers in this one.
You’re almost there (talking to you, playoff fantasy owner) and the championship is in sight. Keep an eye, or two, on GetSportsInfo.com for all your fantasy advice, and look up @jefffcarr on Twitter!